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Real Life Stories of Disaster and Survival

Humans have a knack for resilience and survival. As we endure yet another terrifying season of storms, wildfires, and overall damaging effects from climate change, we look to the past to guide us. Below are some great reads of true stories about natural disasters and survival, from famines and fires to hurricanes and tsunamis, along with some books about a more sterile side to catastrophe: the logistics behind financial compensation in the wake of a disaster, and how to harness the past to create a better future.



Worst of Days: Inside the Black Saturday Firestorm by Karen Kissane (9780733626630)

In February 2009, Australia was on fire. The brushfires were so huge, burning 1,100,000 acres of land in Victoria, that the day was named Black Saturday. Karen Kissane’s Worst of Days is a narrative account of the people who were there for one of the brushfires, the Kilmore blaze. It’s the story of what humans—heroes and monsters, survivors and lost souls—do at the worst of times, from the man who braved the flames to help a friend to the man who refused to cover the face of a dead man.


Ashley Holstrom is a book person, designing them and writing about them for Book Riot. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color.